HOW DID JESUS EVANGELIZE? Jesus may be the founder (to use the language Hebrews 12:2) of Christianity, but by today’s standards, He would have failed in making a seeker-friendly church. If you went to Jesus First Church, you would not find coffee, as well as sugar-coated sermons. Consider the plainest call to follow Him found in Luke 14.
Luke 14:25 Now great crowds accompanied him - that is Jesus - and he turned and said to them,
What would you do in this moment, Christian? Billy Graham passed away awhile ago. His passing made me look up a few videos, and I came across one from 1971, a packed out arena in Chicago. The biggest gathering, said Billy, they had had to date besides a gathering in Houston. Graham gave a good sermon, couldn’t disagree with a bit of it!
Great crowds were accompanying Christ. This is an opportunity, this is! The Son of God, inarguably the best preacher and literally the best person suited for the best possible “You need to be a Christian,” sermon ever. No argument there, right? Jesus, the Son of God, with a great crowd! Only great things should happen here! Play “Just as I am,” and if Jesus wanted too, He could have the whole crowd coming to the front for an altar call. He knows the hearts of people. He could say exactly what needs to be said, to bring them to repentance.
He turned and said to them:
26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
What in the world Jesus?!?!?!
Give me the scientific evidence for God’s existence! I want to hear the benefits of lifetime membership in Jesus First Church! Let’s hear the joys of walking the streets of gold and the no-more-tears-in-heaven bit!
Jesus means business! Jesus is personal! Jesus is blunt! Following Jesus doesn’t mean, “Sunday mornings: you’re in church boy! Tithes, I want some! Put the 'I believe in the big bang, God spoke and bang it happened,' bumper sticker on your car! Vote for Jesus in the elections!”
LOVE GOD MORE
“If anyone comes to me,” what were you doing when you came to the altar or when you prayed to Jesus after reading the Bible, “Come into my heart.” What are you saying when you say, “I’m a Christian,” you’re saying - “I was coming to him, and I’m following Him,” okay, looks like this is for you, this next bit:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters,” wait, I thought Jesus is all about love?! He is. This is an idiom, "hate" in this sense means, “Esteem less,” as Matthew 10:37 records this saying, “Whoever loves Father, Mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters more than me.” What this means is, Jesus is saying “I need to be first in your life. I need you to die to me. I need you to be crucified with me by being in me.” This means that by your obedience to Christ more, it’s going to rub non-believers the wrong way. It might rub your family the wrong way, even among believers. I met a guy at a men's retreat some time back. He’s married to a non-believer. He got married to her when both of them were from nominally High Church Christian backgrounds. He got more serious, got into a different church, had a real sold-out-for Jesus conversion, and she went the other way. He said, “I told her that she will always have second-place in marriage. God’s first. She didn’t like to hear that.”
You come to Christ and you follow Him, it will have implications. Relational implications. Familial implications. The hope is, is that your family is all saved and so when you say, “Christ is calling to do this radical thing,” you will be encouraged not resisted. “Christ has told me that I spend too much time and money on TV, and not enough on His Kingdom. The TV has to go,” And some might balk, “Oh, what are you, Amish? Holier than us?” You could respond, “No. I’m just obeying Christ in what He’s directed me to do here. Can you fault me for that?”
“Christ has told me that He wants me to board a plane and go serve at a mission field for a few weeks.” “Oh, you know the mission field is in our community too. Don’t get over-zealous.” I don’t think one can be over-zealous for Christ. Maybe misplaced zealousness, but not over-zealous.
You have the Holy Spirit's permission to be completely over-zealous for Christ. Dream big, do big, be big, if it’s all in obedience to Jesus Christ. People might resist you, even believers. I’m not saying because they’re unbelievers. I’m just saying “Love God more.”
Kevin Davis is pastor of a small rural church in another Gospel-parched part of the continent, the Pacific Northwest. He is humbly blessed by his wife Christy, his son Calvin, another son arriving in September of 2019, and their two dogs Rocket and Tess, and his gracious congregation.
What does it mean, Christians, for us, to be “crucified?” Paul says he’s been crucified with Christ in Galatians 2:20, and he’s saying it past-tense. It’s already happened! Do we have two resurrected folks after crucifixion walking around? We realize obviously we don’t. Rather we compare the sort of crucifixion that Jesus has with the crucifixion that Paul says he has experienced, and it takes us back to witness what was happening in the garden. It was there that Jesus crucified His will.
Luke 22 (ESV) records the story for us:
41 [When Jesus] withdrew from [the disciples] about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
This is probably one of the most dynamic passages in all of Scripture showing us both Jesus’ humanity and divinity so intertwined. Note that first of all, Jesus is kneeling to pray to God for God to remove this present course of action from Him.
This doesn’t mean that Jesus hasn’t intended all long to do what He knows He has to do. In the Gospels, He tells the Disciples three times of what He’s praying about here. The last time in Luke was four chapters prior in Luke 18:31-33:
31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.”
However, in Jesus’ prayer, we even see both the why of Jesus’ crucifixion and within that why, the resistance of the humanity of Jesus. It’s in the word, “cup,” as in “remove this cup from me.” The cup that Jesus is talking about is God’s wrath. Over and over in the Old Testament the cup is referred to God’s wrath.
Hebrews 2:17 says it well, “Therefore he - that is Jesus - had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
In this word, propitiation, we have the wrath of God being righteously and justly poured out. We have the penalty recipient - in this case, Jesus - receiving the the wrath of God for the entire sins of the world. We have the appeasement of God’s wrath solely on Jesus, and thus we - every believer - we have peace in God.
In verse 42 back in Luke 22, Jesus prays, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
This is the crucifixion of Jesus’s will. This is, in essence, the crucifixion that Paul I believe is talking about. “Not my will but your will be done,” says Jesus to the Father who is saying, “Go, be crucified for the sins of mankind. Submit yourself to the painful death of crucifixion.”
And Jesus does it!
When Paul is saying that He has been crucified with Christ, He is saying that His will is aligning to the will of God even to the point of death. His desires are the desires of God. Every thought is brought into captivity and subjection to the will of God and obedience to Christ.
Have you truly been crucified with Christ? Is every thought brought into captivity and subjection to His will? Do you obey no matter the cost? The only way you can do that, is if you too, are crucified with Christ.
Kevin Davis is pastor of a small rural church in another Gospel-parched part of the continent, the Pacific Northwest. He is humbly blessed by his wife Christy, his son Calvin, and their two dogs Rocket and Tess, and his gracious congregation.
I have the great honor and blessing of coming from a family of saints. My parents and siblings still attend church to this day. Like any family in this fallen world, we’ve had our bumps and none of us are perfect. Many of us have done things that I’m sure the most moral of non-believers would balk at. Thankfully Christ didn’t come for the healthy but for the sick (Luke 5:31), and even families of saints fall under the category of “sick.” There are sick people everywhere (Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Rom 3:23). Vermont is encompassed under that “everywhere.” So it is where I come from. Currently, in my season of life, my family and I have been called to our Gospel-parched area in the Pacific Northwest and didn’t have to move from our hometowns in the process. We have the blessing of being near at least some of our blood-family. The calling of God does strange things in a person’s life. I speak from experience. I feel I have it strangely cushy here. I have family and friends nearby. I feel extremely blessed in what I’m paid. I have a place to live in. I have a great community to live in as it is where some people come for a real remote and wild retreat. It’s not full of tourist traps, but it’s not full of city either. Our Lord says in His call to discipleship: "And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?" (MARK 8:34-37, ESV) This explains to me - at times - my feelings. To know how good I really have it, but to desire to leave it all for the call of Christ because there I feel I might find true life. For reasons I need not divulge here, I have equally felt this passage apply to my needing to stay here. Like Abraham, perhaps I have heard the promise, but am now in between Genesis 12 and 21, between the revelation of God’s call to Abram, and a physical sign of that call through Isaac. I don’t know. I wish I knew more about Abram’s life, and what, “The Lord said to Abram,” (Gen 12:1) sounded and looked like. Perhaps you know exactly what that looks like and it’s why you’re here looking at a blog on a ministry-website that is planting churches for “sick” people in Vermont. Maybe God, in His Sovereignty, is calling His “seventy” to go to Vermont and you’re part of the “seventy”. Yet, the above passage about leaving all, forsaking all, forsaking our own attempts to save our lives for the sake of Him stings all too much. I wonder if it’s opposite for you. For me I have a burning desire to leave all the goodness I have and head out into the uncharted to do what I feel God might be calling me though it be scary, and forsaking my great cushy life here... but equally know it’s not my time. Whereas you know it’s your time, but like me, you have it nice, clean and cushy, and the cost is too high. Yet God is calling you. You’re like that rich young ruler who thinks everything you do should be enough, but in fact you’re convicted, because God wants more. “God, I go to church. I provide for my family. I’m discipling great kids. I’m tithing regularly. I’m in my Bible daily. I’m praying.” Know this, you’re not on God’s black, naughty list if you haven’t accepted the entire call of discipleship, the laying everything down part. Jesus looked at the rich young ruler and loved Him (Mark 10:21). He loved Him enough to tell Him the truth, “You lack one thing.” It’s not that God wants to play games with you. It’s not that God wants to deprive You of all security to see you squirm. Oh, but dear friend, what awaits you is hundredfold. “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mark 10:29-31) I love that Jesus is honest. He doesn’t leave out “persecutions.” He knows that it’ll be hard for you to get from your home to where God is calling you. But I love that Jesus says He builds His home in us (cf. John 15:4), we are His temple, and I love that those who do His will are His blood-family (Mark 3:34-35). You might have it well where you’re at. Yet when you head out into the fields for harvest and become part of God’s plan to save the world in such an active way, such a faith-building way… You gain a hundredfold where it counts. You gain God’s family. You gain a hundredfold, “now,” says Jesus, “in this time.” -- Kevin Davis is pastor of a small rural church in another Gospel-parched part of the continent, the Pacific Northwest. He is humbly blessed by his wife Christy, his son Calvin, and their two dogs Rocket and Tess, and his gracious congregation.
We all remember our favorite childhood game. The game that you always insisted on playing while your friends were over or the game you were best at. My favorite childhood game was Hide-n-Seek. It was my go to game when asked what I would like to play, and I considered myself an expert hider, but not always the best seeker. It was easy for me to find a small space, to be still and quiet. However, many years later this still and quiet concept seems to be near impossible most days. Almost every Bible story we read has an element of waiting. Abraham and Sarah had to wait for a child, even when the circumstances seemed impossible. (Genesis 18) Daniel had to pray fervently, waiting on God to save Jerusalem, not certain God heard his prayer, but reading further we see God not only heard Daniel’s prayer he answered the day it was asked, but Daniel had to wait for the manifestation. (Daniel 9 and 10) Mary and Martha had to mourn and weep over a dead brother and wait upon Jesus to do the impossible. (John 11) There is story after story of waiting found in scripture. We have a lot to learn about the process and need for waiting, along with who God remains to be in the wait. So is waiting just sitting still, in anticipation of God answering just how we think He should? Or is there more to it. When looking at the Hebrew word used mostly in the Old Testament for “wait”, we find the word “qâvâh” (kaw-vaw). This word can be directly defined as: to bind together; to collect; to expect—gather). I’m not sure about you, but I don’t tend to define “wait” in this way. I tend to go back to my childhood mindset of playing Hide-n-Seek, waiting on the seeker to find me. My mind tends to go to a place that says “I don’t sense God working, so I will just do it myself”. Oh how wrong that is. God is calling us to gather with Him in the wait. To draw near and dwell with Him in the wait. Looking at these definitions and understanding how God worked in the lives of so many before, I have come to see waiting as something God has called us to and not just a task to be done to get to the next thing. So what if in the waiting, I say God, I am going to draw near. I am going to bind myself with You, Your promises and Your truths. I am going to gather myself, sit at Your feet, but still walk in obedience to what You have called me to, no matter what the next thing is. I am going to go ahead expect Your answer, knowing You hear me, your child, calling out to You. There are some things we can learn about being the hider in a game of Hide-n-Seek. There is a time to sit still and be quiet. A time to wait, but at some point the hider must get up and run to the security of base. The hider must gather themselves and run. How can you sit in the presence of the Father today, while also picking yourself up and running to His security? -- Rhiannon Barnett serves as Operations Director at Mission City Church, in Rutland, VT. She also serves as a Collegiate Missionary with the North American Mission Board. She’s an Oklahoma girl from the small town of Randlet, located in the southwest part of the state. But she felt a calling to go beyond the comfort of her home when she was a freshman in college while working at the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma summer camp Falls Creek. After graduating from Cameron University in 2012, she made a leap for Vermont. She joined NAMB and was scheduled to only be in Vermont for one year., but Rhiannon discovered the great need for the Gospel in New England. She is now working on her seventh year in New England.
I whole-heartedly believe that some people use the phrase too liberally, “God told me to…” as a defense of some of our actually self-interested actions. Too many hormone-ridden Christian teenagers have apparently heard the Voice of Almighty God when it has come to their crush for at least 6 days and are ready to propose marriage. Too many power-hungry or greedy, self-proclaimed Christian leaders have used the phrase for their own advantage. However, the phrase becomes a reflection of a something more realistic when it comes off the lips of a person who is potentially suffering for the cause of Christ. “God told me I needed another jet,” goes in one ear and out the other. Meanwhile, “God told me to leave all that’s familiar, head out into the unknown with no guarantee of success, but to go on faith,” is when we begin to straighten up and listen. This sounds like the Voice of the Shepherd. Paul is in chains headed to Rome and before King Agrippa because God told him that he would bear witness in Rome (Acts 23:11). Yet it is while he is bearing testimony, the latter half of Acts tells us that it happens through much beating, suffering and in ways and forms that may in fact discourage Paul to think that he is going about his calling the wrong way. We see a bittersweet parting of Paul from brothers in Christ in Acts 20:36-38. Why does Paul have to leave his family in the faith into the darkness that are his final trials? To bear witness about Jesus to people who may or may not hear. But Paul does it for the sake of the Gospel. No wonder then, that, “As he was making his defense this way, Festus exclaimed in a loud voice, ‘You’re out of your mind, Paul! Too much study is driving you mad!’ “But Paul replied, ‘I’m not out of my mind, most excellent Festus. On the contrary, I’m speaking words of truth and good judgment. For the king knows about these matters. It is to him I am actually speaking boldly. For I am convinced that none of these things escapes his notice, since this was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you believe.’ “Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Are you going to persuade me to become a Christian so easily?’ “‘I wish before God,” replied Paul, “that whether easily or with difficulty, not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am—except for these chains.” (Acts 26:24-29 HCSB) I wonder if at times, if you wrestle with a calling to serve in place you’ve never seen, to serve people you’ve never seen, going somewhere for reasons you can’t explain naturally… if you ever feel out of your mind? In fact, as you read these words… perhaps too much study is driving you mad? Commentary on this passage says quite well, “We must believe God in order to bear fruit for God. Our Creator calls us to do many things that seem strange from a this-worldly perspective. We are exhorted not to trust in princes, our bank accounts, or anything else in this world but to believe Christ and do what He says even when we know it will come at a great cost to us personally (Ps. 146:3; Luke 14:25-33).” (TABLETALK Magazine, Ligonier Ministries, June 2017*) So how about you? Do you think you’re out of your mind? Or maybe you’re so into Jesus that He’s gearing up to use you in a way that doesn’t make sense to the world’s mind, but it makes sense to His mind who knows and sees all, and wants to conform you to His Son’s image, and has a plan to do just that that has very real, personal, and sanctifying ramifications for your life here and now… or there and now. https://tabletalkmagazine.com/daily-study/2017/06/faith-and-sanctification/ — Kevin Davis is pastor of a small rural church in another Gospel-parched part of the continent, the Pacific Northwest. He is humbly blessed by his wife Christy, his son Calvin, and their two dogs Rocket and Tess, and his gracious congregation.
Many well-meaning believers take worldly gauges and put them on Christian causes. The CEO, top-down, business-model churches are among the faults of this. I’m not saying that churches who may have introduced worldly business models to big-business-looking churches aren’t successful. Many do great things for the Kingdom, as God doesn’t have to use pure things for His Gospel Kingdom work, but He can use any vessel to accomplish His work, and by His grace He cleans up what He’s using often in the process. If you’re considering the call to Vermont, are you using worldly success as a consideration? How much is worth the cost? What if not many are saved? What if you’re not qualified? What if a church plant doesn’t make it off the ground? More then all these, what if God’s calling you? The answer to this last question should far outweigh the ramifications of any other question. I am astonished by Jesus’s well known-parable on the lost sheep. In context, it seems that Jesus is deliberating with the religious types the reality that God’s not out for clean people, but dirty ones. He’s not out for the ones with the right lineages, He’s out for the outcast, and the humble who realize their just desserts before God. What’s beautiful though, is that Jesus is often out for those who don’t have a clue they’re lost. “What man of you,” Jesus asks you today, “having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country…” Consider that firstly though. Some of you are in great churches and without its support, might be in danger of spiritual wavering. We must not overlook this, and if your spiritual maturity will be sorely lacking should you leave your flock, obey what the Shepherd says to you. At the same time, perhaps your passion is enthused by the words, “If he has lost one of them.” I am struck at the apparent lack of consideration over quantity. The 99 are left in the open country! BUT ONE IS MISSING! Is Jesus’ heart! Do you hear that today? Vermont is certainly not in a category among the lost tribal groups who have never been touched with the Gospel, period, but it’s a lost sheep! It’s destiny is in danger! Its people need the hope, life, love, and joy of the Gospel! Its culture needs redemption! And Jesus’ heart is to leave the 99, “and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it,” (Luke 15:4, ESV). If you were to come in search of the lost sheep, what would you base your coming on? The potential of number of souls to be saved? We are all children of God, and if you have children, suppose 5, are you more okay with losing 1 then say if you only had one child? Every child matters. What is success in Vermont for Jesus? “And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:5-7). If God told you to come to Vermont for just one soul, would you? — Kevin Davis is pastor of a small rural church in another Gospel-parched part of the continent, the Pacific Northwest. He is humbly blessed by his wife Christy, his son Calvin, and their two dogs Rocket and Tess, and his gracious congregation.
Faith in the Jesus Christ of the Bible is a dangerous thing. I say dangerous, because it is an active thing that changes us, moves us, challenges us, motivates us, compels us, and that seeks to remove from us all reliance and dependencies on the material things that comfort us most. This is so that we might throw ourselves at the Living Savior Jesus Christ and say, “take all of me.” That’s what sincere faith should do, and if it doesn’t, the question should really be, “Is my faith sincere?” Do you hear that? Faith in Jesus Christ is a dangerous thing. Dangerous faith is a contagious and attractive thing. Paul says to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:4b-5 (ESV), “I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, ” Paul gives one of his reasonings to see his “beloved child” (see v2) so that he might “be filled with joy.” What is the reasoning for this joy? Timothy had a sincere faith. Don’t waste your sincere faith. That is Paul’s warning. He continues stating to Timothy, “ For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (vv6-7). Scripture also tells us that faith without works is dead. This is when faith’s flame that goes un-fanned looks like. Faith in God is dangerous. Why? Because He not only might, but He WILL call you to do something - and let me tell you - it will be outside of your comfort zone. It does require movement: it requires faith. It requires, “God you’re asking too much of me,” and God is saying, “That’s why I ask it, so you’ll rely on me!” If you partake in that dangerous faith, if you say, “Well played, God, I’m all in,” that faith is contagious. I know it’s scary. This might mean pulling up roots from where you’re at and moving. This may mean disrupting relationships. This might mean switching vocations. This might be leaving everything to follow God. Leave fear where it’s at, because God has not given that to us. I’m a worrier and I think I’ve learned to deal with my worry and fear through passiveness. It’s a sin that I need to repent of. Instead of talk with people about my big plans, I fear rejection. I fear disagreement. I fear people responding negatively to my big plans and ideas and so instead of sharing them, I internalize them into a state of constant conviction. This too, leads to fear because I’m not repenting. I’m saying, “God you might be calling me in this direction, but the cost is too high. That faith is too dangerous. That faith is too risky.” God’s not given us this. Rather, He’s given us power, love, and self-control. His Spirit is power! It’s big! It’s dangerous! It’s God in us! Let us remember too, it’s God-centered, God-glorifying, God-sourced power that glorifies God! It’s not power for power’s sake, it’s not power like superman, it’s power to build God’s kingdom. It’s a power that’s used in love. When your faith activates you to service, it will be a service of love for God and love for people. Finally, dangerous faith will be honed in, molded, shaped, and made most effective by spiritual leadership and discernment so that it might be truly powerful and forceful, executed with love, and executed under sound judgment, under self-control. There is a harvest to be had for God’s Kingdom in Vermont. So you might say you have faith? Is it a sincere, dangerous faith? — Kevin Davis is pastor of a small rural church in another Gospel-parched part of the continent, the Pacific Northwest. He is humbly blessed by his wife Christy, his son Calvin, and their two dogs Rocket and Tess, and his gracious congregation.
We need to reorient our thinking to what Jesus was promising when He promised eternal life. Eternal life doesn’t start after we die, it starts now. Over and over in the Gospels, Jesus is not promising merely a future hope, but rather an abundant life with here-and-now ramifications, ignited by the hope of glory. When Jesus revealed Himself as the Bread of Life (John 6:35), or the Living Water (John 4:10-11; 7:37-38), He’s claiming to meet very present needs. The call to Discipleship (consider Luke 14:25-35) has extremely personal, present, confrontational, and life-altering considerations, where coming to an altar, saying a prayer, and merely stepping foot in a building once a week to consume services is nowhere to be found in any of that. This is good news for a Christian society that sees hell as the primary thing we are saved from. If that’s true, then I have little to be excited about. That means I await heaven with the problems I have now. But if God’s salvation has personal and present ramifications, namely: that I can be saved from sin now, I can overcome sins, I can grow in faith, I can change directions, now… well then, sign me up! Thus the Gospel is received and at the same time, seemingly paradoxically, fought for. Paul tells Timothy to, “…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the faith; take hold of eternal life that you were called to and have made a good confession about in the presence of many witnesses,” (1 Timothy 6:11b-12 HCSB). As I grow more and more in my own faith, the less satisfied I am with the mundane, mediocre and lukewarm, and the more hungry and thirsty I am for the Bread of Life and the Living Water that is Jesus. What does it mean for you or me, dear Christian, to take hold of the eternal life that we are called to? What are you called to? We live in a world that throws sins and hindrances to us much like hurdles on a track, and the Holy Spirit is calling us, through Paul’s letter, to run, jump, dodge, and pursue. Pursue righteousness and godliness! Saturate in the Word, be transformed by the renewing of our minds feasting on the Bread of Life, and drinking from the Living Water. What shocks our 21st century evangelical understandings is the fact that we are to pursue faith. How many of us didn’t know that faith was something running down the same track ahead of us, and we are called to chase it? We get striving to love better, we know it requires training to build up endurance, and we’re all working on being gentler people. But pursuing faith? I am reminded of one of my favorite stories in the Gospel, where Jesus is called to heal the demonized son of an awesome model of a father. More honest then many of us too-proud dads, he confesses to Jesus who has not promised anything, “I believe, help my unbelief,” (Mark 9:24). That man is pursuing faith. As I always do, I close connecting to why you’re perusing this blog. What does it look like for you to pursue greater faith, deeper trust, radical reliance, and sold-out obedience upon Christ? How do you pursue the faith? Fight the good fight for the faith, and take hold of the eternal life that God’s called you to. Call me a heretic, but I don’t believe heaven starts when we die. I believe that the eternal life that Christ calls you to, is a life that is abundant now. It is a life that has meaning, substance, and adds fulfillment and joy to doing what you were called to do, which is why you must pursue to take hold of it. If you are called into this particular field of the harvest, that is Vermont, and you are weighing the options. I urge you to fight to the good fight for faith. Like a boxing match, the fight might have rounds, it might require strategy, patience, endurance, and weighing when to land the next blow. It might mean absorbing pain. It might mean suffering defeat a time or two. Nevertheless, fight the good fight, knowing what Jesus has called you to do. And by all means, don’t let our society - in the church or out - tell you that the Christian life is meant to be mediocre, comfortable, convenient, or without risk. But rather, take hold of the eternal life that begins now… especially if it’s the life you’ve been called to. —- Kevin Davis is pastor of a small rural church in another Gospel-parched part of the continent, the Pacific Northwest. He is humbly blessed by his wife Christy, his son Calvin, and their two dogs Rocket and Tess, and his gracious congregation.
When we read the story of Jesus’ life on Earth, it seems like he went everywhere teaching and performing miracles. But it’s easy to miss the fact that Jesus did so many miracles in the interruptions to what he was doing. He never was too busy with the agenda for the day, never to preoccupied with ministry that he ignored a cry for help. He allowed himself to be interrupted for others.
Check out the story in Mark 5 (verses 21-43) and notice the interruptions that happen that lead to miracles.
Mark 5:21-43 NLT
Jesus got into the boat again and went back to the other side of the lake, where a large crowd gathered around him on the shore. Then a leader of the local synagogue, whose name was Jairus, arrived.
When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet, pleading fervently with him. “My little daughter is dying,” he said. “Please come and lay your hands on her; heal her so she can live.” Jesus went with him, and all the people followed, crowding around him. A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding.
She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse. She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe.
For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition.” Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”
His disciples said to him, “Look at this crowd pressing around you. How can you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”
But he kept on looking around to see who had done it. Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of him and told him what she had done. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.”
While he was still speaking to her, messengers arrived from the home of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. They told him, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.”
But Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.”
Then Jesus stopped the crowd and wouldn’t let anyone go with him except Peter, James, and John (the brother of James). When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw much commotion and weeping and wailing. He went inside and asked, “Why all this commotion and weeping? The child isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.”
The crowd laughed at him. But he made them all leave, and he took the girl’s father and mother and his three disciples into the room where the girl was lying. Holding her hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means “Little girl, get up!” And the girl, who was twelve years old, immediately stood up and walked around! They were overwhelmed and totally amazed. Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell anyone what had happened, and then he told them to give her something to eat.
Jesus was on his way to speak to a crowd that was waiting. Then a leader in the synagogue came asking him to come heal his daughter and Jesus left the crowd to go with him. And on the way to the house, a lady who needed healing touched his robe and was healed.
Jesus didn’t just go on ahead and ignore the fact that this lady had put her hope in Him and found her healing. He stopped to bring her story to light and to celebrate her freedom.
When was the last time you allowed someone to interrupt you with their need? Maybe you’re an incredibly busy person. Or maybe you don’t feel qualified to fix all the things that are wrong with someone who interrupts you with their need.
The good news is that God hasn’t asked us to be their answer. Jesus has that role covered. Our part is the make ourselves available to show them His love.
The greatest miracles in my life have happened with God interrupts me and says, “Dino, make yourself available.” The most amazing stories I’ve been part of have happened in the form of something that interrupts my plan, my routine, or my route.
Responding well to the unexpected leads to being part of the remarkable. When we allow our lives to be interrupted, we get the chance to be part of a miracle God is ready to do in someone else’s life.
How far are you willing to go to let God do a miracle through you? Extend yourself a bit and let Him interrupt you with the chance to be part of someone else’s miracle.
Dino Rizzo serves as the Executive Director of ARC (Association of Related Churches), an organization he co-founded which has planted hundreds of churches across the country. He is the author of the book Servolution, and he serves as an Associate Pastor at Church of the Highlands in Birmingham. Dino and DeLynn have three incredible children.
It’s no hidden mystery, the spiritual landscape of New England at large is in shambles. Reviving New England by New Hampshirite pastor Nate Pickowickz captures the essence of the irony of America’s biggest mission field: where America Christianity started is where it now needs it the most. The homeland of Jonathan Edwards, of the original ivy league seminaries, the Pilgrims and Puritans! The cradle of Christianity in America! In some ways, New England is the New Jerusalem for Christian Americans. Today’s Christians can never know what Jerusalem felt like for Jews. Jerusalem was the presence of God, and thus the sum, seat, totality, gravitational center of all things religious for Jews. It’s where pilgrimages were made to, where sacrifices were made, where God was truly worshiped. And through trial, turmoil, war and the like, Jerusalem was abandoned. Nehemiah was working in exile, perhaps in blissful ignorance, when he heard about Jerusalem. “The remnant in the province, who survived the exile, are in great trouble and disgrace. Jerusalem’s wall has been broken down, and its gates have been burned down.” (Nehemiah 1:3 HCSB). I remember the day my heart sunk when I started realizing that I could actually Google towns in Vermont and look for true Gospel witnesses and find none! Towns of people without Gospel witness! We war against the spiritual forces of the world, and there has been a spiritual exile in Vermont and New England. The walls in areas have been broken down, and gates have been burned. Nehemiah writes when hearing about Jerusalem, “When I heard these words, I sat down and wept. I mourned for a number of days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven,” (Neh 1:4, HCSB). What we read in Nehemiah is what was happening for Nehemiah, but what we can only surmise is what’s happening from God’s perspective. What is happening from God’s perspective for you? Are you reading these words? How did you get here? Have you prayed and fasted for the dilapidated spiritual landscape of Vermont? Those who are surviving the exile are parched for Living Water, and hungering for the Bread of Life. Is God moving in the background to bring His disciples to fulfill the Great Commission in the ruins of America’s Jerusalem? What does that look like for you? — Kevin Davis is pastor of a small rural church in another Gospel-parched part of the continent, the Pacific Northwest. He is humbly blessed by his wife Christy, his son Calvin, and their two dogs Rocket and Tess, and his gracious congregation.